Various Artists

Soul Allnighter: 60s Stompers & 70s Dancefloor CL

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Compiled by the promoter of the Metropolitan Soul Club in London, this two-CD, 40-track set is one of numerous compilations dedicated to Northern Soul, the British subgenre of obscure (primarily) '60s soul that's gained a fervent cult following as dance music. These specific songs, none of them hits, are thus considerably more likely to have special significance to habitues of the Northern Soul scene than they are to the more general (or American) soul collector. Outside of the Northern Soul cult, these cuts are unlikely to be familiar, even mildly so, through club or radio play; they're more apt to be regarded as a collection of soul rarities from all over the place, though more inclined toward commercial pop-soul than deep Southern sounds. Like other anthologies in this vein (quite a few of them on the Kent/Ace label alone), this is OK but not stunning rare soul, tending toward the mid- to uptempo, upbeat '60s style, though by no means exclusively (and throwing in a few songs from the early to mid-'70s, as well). A good chunk of them, though not everything, come from the catalogs of the Scepter/Wand and Musicor labels, which at least ensures that it won't be as overexposed as outings from the vaults of Motown, Stax, Philadelphia International, and the like.

Non-rabid collectors are likely to have heard of just a few names here, like Judy Clay, the Toys, the Olympics, First Choice, and Al Wilson (none represented by their hits, of course), and maybe a few others like Marie Knight, Sammy Ambrose, Candy & the Kisses, and the Anglos if their knowledge is way-above-average. The music's more acceptably average than it is excitingly above-average, however, and sometimes too explicitly imitative of other, bigger hits and artists. The riff from Fontella Bass' "Rescue Me" crops up almost verbatim in Daryl Stewart's "Name It and Claim It," for example, while the intro to George Tindley's "Pity the Poor Man" probably wouldn't have been possible if it hadn't come out after Robert Knight's "Everlasting Love." It's not bad in all, however, with occasional cuts that rise above the usual standard for such things, like Cicero Blake's aptly titled orchestrated ballad "Sad Feeling"; Ultra High Frequency's "We're on the Right Track," a good Philly International-styled mid-'70s soul-disco number (and thus not too typical of either Northern Soul or this compilation); and "Since You've Been Gone" by the Anglos, who've been rumored (incorrectly, according to the liner notes) to have involvement from the Spencer Davis Group.

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